I cannot believe that I’ve been in Ghana for almost three weeks. This trip is going by so fast. By the time I know it, it will be July and time to travel back to America. I’ve made some new friends, tried several local dishes, and have come to understand what Ghanaian life entails. My favorite dish so far is red red with plantains and fish. I think I could have this dish every night and be content. It’s interesting because I did not like plantains AT ALL prior to visiting Kumasi and I love it now; Ghana is already changing me for the better.
Besides the food, one of the things I adore most about Kumasi is the appreciation for different cultures. The locals are eager to get to know the different identities present in our group. They consistently point out the fair ones, i.e. white people, and are interested to see what other differences there are between the members of our group. They question us about our lives back home and what seems to be common experiences as Americans, like always visiting New York. I have had several conversations with individuals at my service site about Trump, American wealth, and other popular topics concerning Americans. As much as we want to learn Ghanaian social dances and slang, they also want to learn American social dances and slang. In fact, I’ve been given the task of showing the teachers from my performing arts class black social dances.
It’s quite interesting to see and hear how concerned Ghanaians are to learn about American life. I would like to believe it comes from just wanting to learn about cultures you have never personally experienced, but the truth is it’s a lot deeper than that. Although Ghanaians are proud of their culture and want to share it with tourists, there is a huge fixation on American culture and the hopes of one day living in America. As humans we sometimes think that the grass is always greener on the other side, but in reality, it isn’t. From my experiences in Kumasi, Ghanaians seem to think ALL grass in America is green, metaphorically that is. As a collective, they believe that Americans live this dream life filled with glitz and glam. They think it is easy for everyone to make a living in America and that we can all buy expensive, luxurious items. Despite the dominant, global portrayal of America, there are thousands of people who go hunger every day, are homeless, and unemployed/underemployed. From conversations I’ve had here, some people do not even know about the struggles some Americans face, especially marginalized communities. A day does not go by without someone asking me to take them back to America, as if I had the power or money to do so.
There are historical events and structural differences that allow the U.S. to be the leader it is globally, however there are some things that Ghana does better than America. Due to America’s history of genocide, sexism, xenophobia, etc, there is no sense of community as a country. When my parents were growing up all the adults in their neighborhood acted as parents to every child. Children had to listen to and respect all elders. This is also a common practice in Ghana. They even have African unity across the continent. I wish we had this sense of community in America. I hope Ghanaians could witness the beneficial parts of their culture from my point of view and understand the importance of it. Some wish they were Americans but would be missing a very integral part of their culture if they lived in America.
Before traveling to Ghana I never viewed American life as being inherently better than other nationalities/cultures. I know understand that there are some privileges I have as an American like being able to obtain a visa to another country without any difficulties. However, this does not make America superior to other places in the world. I hope those I encounter with the mindset that America is the greatest thing since sliced bread will be able to understand my perspective and acknowledge that America is not exactly what it is advertised as. There is oppression, corruption, and poverty every where in the world. America is not better than Ghana or any other African nation for that matter.
This book was recommended to me while in Ghana. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078VX9YMG/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1. Hopefully it can help conceptualize some of the issues that Africa faces currently.
P.S. I learned one of the dances from the YouTube video in my last blog post. There was a dance battle at Bar Naas in Kumasi. Let’s just say I didn’t win but I didn’t lose either. Competition is stiff out there!